Li Tai, a friend of mine is a single mother who raised two children by working odd jobs as a nanny and an office cleaning worker. Last week, she told me with excitement that she bought a lakefront condo unit in Toronto, because her son and daughter got decent jobs in Canada after graduating from prominent business programs from Canadian universities.
For Li, Canada provides a land of opportunity for her next generation, and her story has broken the engrained Chinese perception that the parent’s social class predetermines their children’s success. Indeed, in China, struggling with changing social statuses throughout the course of their life, young people have been shackled to the economic class into which they were born in.
“Apples never fall far from the tree!” maybe the best expression to describe the rigid social mobility issue in China. That expression can be best evidenced by a study in China that targeted 60 interns competing for coveted positions in a prominent bank. The study, with a result highlighting the close resemblance of children’s future to the social status of their fathers, instantly went viral on Chinese social media.
Indeed, to a certain degree, China’s Gao Kao system has leveled the playing field for Chinese youths, giving opportunities for children from underprivileged urban families to obtain a university education. However, their family’s background predicts their career achievements as they join the workforce after graduation and start families. According to the study, it was the financial wealth and social privileges of the parents that had paved a smooth path for their children to achieve their desired life outcomes. In a society that admires the privileged class but looks down on the marginalized groups, the social and financial power possessed by ones’ parents would not only provide their children with the means to bribe the decision makers, but also entitle them to a privileged ego, allowing them to use their personal appeal to conquer the business world.
A Sandford University study shows how likely a son’s earnings in a country resembles to their father’s. China ranked the second in the study -- far above many other nations – such as Canada and US, showing one of the strongest links between a child’s life path to that of their parents.
China’s migrant demographic has a far worse social mobility issue than their urban counterparts – with Hukou being the prime culprit. “Migrants in Shanghai fare much worse compared with immigrants in Canada and US”, a social study professor was quoted in a Globe and Mail article. Unlike children to immigrants in Canada who were born with citizenship, children born to migrant parents in China are still migrants. Lacking the coveted document HuKou, they are deprived of access to education and opportunities to improve their social status.
In contrast, Canada is one of the most socially mobile societies in the developed world, according to a study by a professor with the University of Ottawa. The research shows that the association between the income of parents and their adult children is weaker than the US and Britain, and even some European countries including France and Sweden.
Abundant evidence shows that Canada provides the best social mobility to immigrants. According to StatsCan, despite the poverty and hardships that the first generation of immigrant face, their children, armed with Canadian education and credentials, are faring much better than their parents and enjoy the greater success in the country. Children to immigrant families are rising from the lowest to the highest of income scale at a high rate – much higher than the most local Canadian demographic.
And their success is the best reward for immigrants like Li Tai. “They (their children) will live a good life in Canada,” says Li. “That was why I uprooted my life and immigrated to Canada!”
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